Playing with Work Data

Like many companies, the agency where I work keeps data on how much time is spent on things in order to estimate prices for projects, schedule things and keep the company profitable. At the end of the day, I mark down how much time I spent on each project that I worked on during the day, write a little description about it and hit save. Pretty simple, no big deal. Now that I think of it, it kind of reminds me of a git commit. It’s helpful later on to be able to look back at my short descriptions to see exactly what I did when and in what order.

Now, I have some doubts about whether measuring value in terms of time is the best way to do things. It’s not the amount of time that someone sits at a desk that is valuable. It’s the expertise, skills and creativity they bring to the work that matters. It’s more important to work smarter than to work for a specified amount of time. In other words, the quality of the time is more important than the quantity of the time.

But I also understand the realities of businesses needing to be profitable, and an easy way to measure things and try to ensure profitability is with time. I don’t mind tracking time, and since as of right now we’re tracking this data anyway, it could be some useful data to play with to find out some interesting things about productivity, profitability and how to improve the quality of that time in terms of enjoyment, quality results and creativity. My goal is not to increase productivity, but to see what makes work meaningful and enjoyable, what leads to high quality work, and whether or not measuring by time is really a good way to stay profitable.

What I want to find out is… Will being more aware of time make me work differently or value things differently? Will having a clear idea of how much time is left actually make me enjoy work more because I won’t have the constant nagging voice in my head saying “don’t go over time”? Will visualizing the data make me a more profitable employee? Or will it make me less effective and more concerned with just getting things done regardless of quality? Also, what kinds of projects do I enjoy most and why?

The problem is that the data we track right now isn’t visible. It’s buried in our time tracking software, and I can’t easily see at a glance what the status is. It would be cool to be able to quickly look and see a list of all of the projects I’m working on and how much time is left in the estimate for each one visually. The other problem is that it needs to be paired with other data in order to really answer my questions. It needs some self-reporting about how much I’m enjoying each project, etc.

I have some ideas for how I can set up some simple tracking and visualization using the existing data, so I’m curious to try it out and see where it goes. If you have any comments or ideas or suggestions, please let me know.

Kevin McGillivray is a teacher and web developer from Wisconsin. He writes about creativity, mindfulness, code, and tea. He tweets and tumbles.

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